We’re in the early stages of summer roof bar season, but no one would call most of New York’s recent nights balmy or sweet. So this week we offer a weather haven, a hotel bar where you can order a drink with a dash of glam and forget the gloom swirling around outdoors.
The above requirements mean dim lighting, no windows, dark woods and a muted palette, preferably blue to match the weather-inflicted mood. Since that describes the Royalton to a T, we headed to West 44th Street. Our advice: if you want to be able to hear your companion, arrive early. By 8 pm the place assumes its nighttime guise as a hotel lobby doubling as a nightclub. But at 6:30 on a rainy holiday Monday evening, we had our pick of the cushy leather club chairs and wound up a few tables away from an amorous couple on a sofa, a pre-theater couple photographing each other and a lone Fleet Week sailor checking his iPhone.
Royalton’s Brasserie 44 restaurant closed last summer and reopened in October as Forty-Four, a bar with small-plate nibbles, following a subtle renovation, the addition of a second bar and a major menu overhaul (slimmed down food, souped up drinks). The result is arguably the biggest hotel bar in town, encompassing nearly everything on the ground floor except the check-in desk.
New on the drinks menu were organic ingredients and boutique brews, the hallmark of a curated bar, and punch. Since you need a crowd, or a bank-loan, for the latter – the Blue Mountain with 21-year-old Jamaican rum, organic lime juice and a dusting of Jamaican Blue coffee costs $495 – we opted for individual drinks.
The Vieux Carre ($14) caught our eye – rye, whiskey, VSOP Cognac, Carpano and Antica Formula with Angustura and Peychaud’s bitters and a Benedictine rinse on the glass. A gorgeous amber brew, it arrived in an Old-Fashioned glass cooled by one large ice cube. Its complex taste matched its exquisite looks and Tennessee Williams/New Orleans vibe — a moody potable until summer’s promised arrival.